How do you know if attending a conference was worth your while?

A week ago, I shared a framework for goal-setting (MPV goals, or Minimum/Primary/Visionary goals).

If want your employer to foot the bill for your attendance at a conference, it can be quite helpful to identify (in advance) what you hope to get out of that conference. I spent last week at the eLearning Guild’s FocusOn Learning conference and I have to say, it was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended, but…

The key question my supervisor (or myself or anyone else who plans to hold me accountable for the investment of time and money that was spent on my attending this conference) should be asking is: “So, you say it was a great conference… how do you know?”

Collage

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How do you get the most out of your conference experience?

FocusOn

This week I’m headed to Austin, TX, to participate in the eLearning Guild’s FocusOn Learning conference. Attending any conference can be a significant investment – either for your organization or, if you’re footing your own bill for professional development opportunities, then it’s a significant investment for yourself.

For example: without any discounts, the FocusOn conference registration is $1,695. Add a couple hundred dollars for the hotel, a couple hundred more dollars for airfare, some more money for meals, local transportation and other expenses, and this could easily run several thousand dollars. That’s before you factor in the cost of your own time.

What’s the best way to ensure there’s some sort of return on this investment? Continue reading

If Organizations Espouse “Diversity” As A Priority, Their Conference Planners Need To Go And Look For It

Panel and Diversity

I have been a keynote speaker, panel participant, panel moderator, breakout session facilitator and I’ve also led pretty much every other high profile conference, meeting and symposium role you can think of. Ok, well maybe I haven’t personally done that, but plenty of people like me have – straight, white, Christian, (upper?) middle class men with no physical disabilities.

Over the past week and a half, I’ve noticed the topic of diversity has come up thrice with respect to conferences and conference faculty selection.

The first mention popped up in my Twitter feed Continue reading

What’s Missing from ATD ICE?

Searching (Blank Face)

ATD’s annual international conference and expo began yesterday, and I have a feeling it’s missing something (and I’m not necessarily talking about me… although really, what good is a conference without me?).

I’ve been to several ATD conferences and a SHRM Talent Development conference over the past few years and they all seem to be missing something.

The crowds I’ve encountered at the ATD conferences have primarily included instructional designers, training program managers, classroom instructors and some independent consultants. The SHRM conference was primarily HR professionals – business partners, generalists, department heads and consultants.

I imagine it’s similar at major conferences for professionals in coaching or organizational development. On the one hand, it’s to be expected. These conferences, after all, are for specialized segments of the greater human performance field. On the other hand, none of these initiatives can be successful if professionals from across the human performance spectrum don’t have opportunities to cross-pollinate.

Recently, as I got involved in my local ATD chapter, I was given an opportunity to work on an annual program called the Allied Professionals Event, which will take place on June 9th in Seattle. I’m looking forward to it because it is the one night of the year when people from across these specialized areas – learning & development, human resources, coaching and organizational development – can all come together, spend some time networking and discussing what’s on their minds, and then listen to some of the region’s rock star executives in both HR and business operations speak to the impact of human performance initiatives on the people within their organizations.

If you’re in the Seattle area, I’d like to invite you to attend (here is the registration information) and I’d love to hear what you’re working on. If you’re someplace else in this world, I’d love to hear from you – have you found similar opportunities to engage with your counterparts from other areas of the human performance spectrum?

While I know large national conferences are organized for specialized groups that make up their membership, are they completely serving their members’ best interests with such a narrow focus across all conference programming?

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear it in the Comment section.

Know someone who might be interested in this type of initiative, please pass this along!

Finding my Soulmate at DevLearn

We all know that some conference presentations are spectacular… and some are complete snoozers. I wish there was a Match.com service for conferences and annual meetings. Some type of service that could match me up with great speakers and amazing presentations.

Next week, I’ll be in Las Vegas, attending The eLearning Guild’s annual DevLearn conference. If I could run an online personal ad in order to find the perfect conference session to attend, this is what it might look like:

Profile Name: Flipchartguy

Fly Guy

Location: Seattle, WA

Seeking: A lifetime of amazing learning opportunities… though one amazing fling of a presentation in Vegas will do for now

About Me: I’ve been in the L&D space for 16 years or so, mostly classroom-based but I’ve dabbled enough in elearning to hold my own. I’ve been told I have a one-track mind; all I can think about is how to make learning and development more engaging every day. I hope this little quirk is ok with you. But it means that I also expect you to want to make learning and development engaging every day. Not just in your office. But when you’re presenting, too. Like, when you’re presenting at DevLearn for example.

Who I’m Looking For: I’m looking for someone who can blow my mind and who doesn’t believe in “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” I’m looking for a session that delivers content or builds skills that won’t just be forgotten as soon as I walk out the door of your meeting room. I want to brag about what I did with you, what you taught me, what I can now do when I go back to Seattle and swap stories with my co-workers and other L&D colleagues for years to come.

Interests: Flipcharting, designing learning experiences, playing around with Storyline, geeking out over hot topics in adult learning

Exercise Habits: I’m actually kind of lazy, always looking for keyboard shortcuts to hasten the amount of time I spend in PowerPoint or Storyline or Word or Excel

Favorite Things: I know DevLearn is all about technology in learning, but I still cherish the first whiff of a new pack of Mr. Sketch markers

Last Read: Our Iceberg Is Melting (John Kotter)

Background & Values

Me My Soul Mate
Education M.A. Organizational Psychology Degrees are overrated
Learning Style Visual Kinesthetic
Delivery Style Attempt to be inclusive (as often as possible) Show me the ring (because I want to be engaged by you and your presentation!)
Honesty I may exaggerate from time to time Honesty is a must! What you advertise in your session description in the conference program should be what you deliver in your session!
Risk Taking Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Be fearless.

 

Delivery Style

Me My Soul Mate
Lecture No way This is a deal-breaker for me
Visual Aids Prefer flipchart; PPT if I must Standard templates, lots of text and bullet points are all deal-breakers
Preparation Almost always Must be impeccable (yes, I have higher standards for you; perhaps you’ll inspire me to prepare better)
Delivery Use a lesson plan as a guide, adapt to the audience and their needs This is a big deal. The delivery should seem natural and smooth (not off the cuff and aimless). Reading verbatim from a script or from the slides is an absolute deal breaker.

 

On November 3, I’ll follow up this post and will let you know if I was able to find that elusive conference session soul mate at DevLearn.

Will you be there? If so, drop me a line. I’d love to connect and, as I mentioned above, geek out over adult learning, instructional design and whatever else can be taken away from the conference!

 

 

Inconceivable! Presentation Titles Should Be Creative, but Avoid False Advertising

Conference attendees will judge your presentation by its title, so it’s important to try to stand out. Of course, if your title promises things you don’t deliver, then attendees may just be annoyed.

I was at a conference recently and attended a session entitled: The Impact of Our Profession in Four Vignettes.

Who doesn’t like a good vignette? Wikipedia says a vignette is a short scene that focuses on a particular moment or gives some insight into a character or situation. However, when the presentation took shape, it was simply three short presentations and a panel discussion.

I felt cheated.

When you’re giving your presentation a title, I think it’s important that you are creative, but don’t go around plugging buzz words into your title, especially if you use those buzz words incorrectly. You’ll just end up looking as silly as Vizzini in The Princess Bride:

Using “The Dating Game” to Identify Amazing Conference Presentations

On Monday I wondered whether match.com could help me find a presentation I could fall in love with. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with several presentations at SHRM’s Talent Management Conference. Here’s how I’d choose the best. (Spoiler Alert: if you want to cut to the chase, just scroll to the bottom to see the summary/recap)

Dating Game (SHRM)

The SHRM Talent Management Conference Dating Game

Me: Presentation #1, when I’m at a conference, I generally have high hopes for the quality of a presentation, but I also have low expectations. What would you do to fulfill my hopes and exceed my expectations?

Presentation #1: Well, I’d begin by describing my presentation as “interactive” in the conference program. Since we’re in Vegas, I’d double down by telling you how interactive the presentation will be as we get started. And I’d make sure you felt welcome to ask questions at any time. I’d tell stories based on my experiences and I’d ask the audience questions from time to time.

Me: Hmmmm, I guess that’s a conventional way to look at interactivity. Presentation #2, we are in Vegas and there’s a lot going on. What would make you stand out?

Presentation #2: As soon as you walk through the door, I’d not only welcome you, but I’d make sure we connect personally. I’d bring up our common Pacific Northwest roots. Even though the audience will be standing room only, I want you to feel like I’m talking to you. I’ll give you two specific pieces of homework I’d like you to do as soon as you get back home. And I’ll show a video clip of an iPhone getting blended up. Oh, you’ll remember me all right.

Me: An iPhone getting blended up?! I’m intrigued. Presentation #3, my time is valuable to me and I’m needy. I need to be engaged. How would you propose to engage me?

Presentation #3: Before I tell you, I’d like you to stand up, turn to someone near you, give them a high five, and tell them “you rock!”

Me: Ok. That’s true, I do rock.  Now what?

Presentation #3: I’m going to engage you by getting you involved.  Maybe you’ll stand and give high five’s.  Maybe you’ll be asked to write some answers to my questions.  Maybe you’ll be instructed to talk with some people around you.  Maybe you’ll be asked to share some thoughts with the entire crowd.  Maybe I’ll build upon your other experiences at the conference by telling you how the information from the keynote speaker you just heard affirms and complements my own content.  Maybe I’ll end with a call to action.  Maybe I’ll provide some specific steps you can take.

Me: Sounds amazing.  One last question for all of you. I’ll start with Presentation #3.  Looks matter to me.  What do you look like?

Presentation #3: I come dressed in slides.  Custom made slides.  I try to economize on words, and occasionally I’ll use bullet points.  But I have the most fun when I can be whimsical – when I use a picture instead of a thousand words.

Me: You sound cute.  How about you, Presentation #2?

Presentation #2: I dress pretty skimpily… in a good way.  If I wanted you to read a lot, I’d just give you a book.  So I don’t wear many words.  But if you’re into sticky images, I can show you a giant piece of construction equipment that crushes a truck.  I can show you a triangular model to help connect your values, passions and delivery methods.  I don’t wear much, but I bet you’ll take notes on what you see and hear!

Me: Wow, steamy!  Presentation #1, the bar seems to have been set high.  What do you look like?

Presentation #1: I like consistency, so my slides align with the conference template.  I respect visual learners, and I make sure to include main topics and bulleted lists.  And clip art.  But keep in mind, it’s what’s inside that counts.  And I’m a charismatic speaker.

Me: It’s time to make my decision.  I think all three of you are smart and talented and I really appreciate you bringing your gifts of knowledge and experience to the conference.  It’s a lot of work preparing for something like this and it’s always a risk to be in front of people.  This is a tough decision.

Presentation #1, I learned some things from you, but when it comes to design and delivery, you might want to take a few more risks and try some new things – both in terms of visual aids (your “looks”) and your “interactivity”.  We won’t be seeing each other again.

It really comes down to Presentation #2 and Presentation #3.  The truth is, you’re both amazing.  My decision, the presentation that I truly fell in love with is… Presentation #2 (whose true identity is Todd Hudson’s “Unforgettable Onboarding”).  And since this is my game and my rules, I also choose to fall in love with Presentation #3 (Jason Lauritsen’s “The Future of Talent Management”).

A quick recap of what made me fall in love with each presentation:

Todd Hudson

Jason Lauritsen

Welcome attendees individually upon entering the room Fun introductory slide as the audience walked in the room
Charismatic delivery of targeted and meaningful content Charisma and humor in the delivery of relevant and actionable content
Simple slides, few words, powerful images Attention-grabbing activity as soon as the session began
Use of video to illustrate key points about values, passion and stickiness Mixed hard data with anecdotes and stories (including a memorable Readers Digest story)
Delivered presentation among the audience, not at the podium Issued three questions for audience to think through and discuss in small groups, then came back to these questions throughout the presentation
Issued a call to action Issued a call to action and provided specific tips and strategies of how to do these as soon as audience returns home
Kept most attendees in the room until the very end with a small raffle

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